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Gender [was: RE: Betreft: Writing Systems and Biscriptal Children]

From:FFlores <fflores@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 1, 1999, 22:45
Rob Nierse <rnierse@...> wrote:

> In Spanish some female words have the connotation of being > bigger: > bolso - bolsa, barco - barca etc.. > What does he do with that?
Hmm... _bolso_ is more like "purse" while _bolsa_ means "bag", so yes, it's bigger. But _barca_, I don't know; it's very rarely used (literary), and it sounds smaller to me (like _bote_ vs. _barco_). There are some other strange pairs, like _mazo_ 'mallet' vs. _maza_ 'mace' (the weapon), _banco_ 'bank' vs. _banca_ 'the bank system', _grabador_ 'recorder' (as in the small ones, used by journalists) vs. _grabadora_ (as in a CD recorder). OTOH there are a lot of feminines like _caja_ 'box' opposed to masculine "augmentatives" like _caj=F3n_ 'drawer' (or _rata_ 'rat' vs. _rat=F3n_ 'mouse'). These are really weird, since the "augmented" forms in <-=F3n> are usually smaller!
> So, obligatory conlang reference: those of you who do have gender in > your language, is it masc/fem? and are masculine nouns more powerful?
Most of my langs don't have gender; it looks messy to me (and unexotic!). But most of them do distinguish fem/masc/inanimate in 3rd person pronouns. In Xkanxey (<x> =3D retroflex s) there are three genders named after "elements": air, water and earth. Earth is associated with what we would call 'yin' (feminine, quiet, protection, fertile); water is 'yang-ish' (masculine, dynamic, strength); air is reserved for divine entities, emotions, and priestesses (which are always=20 virgin women). The culture is very structured. Married women are at the lowest level; men have political power, and consecreted women have religious power. There are pronouns for each gender, and for each combination of speaker-addressee (i. e. a man doesn't use the same pronoun to address his wife and a priestess, and each of them uses a different pronoun to adress the man in question). As for common nouns, the gender is more or less predictable (the element mainly associated with them, or the one corresponding to the sex of the average person who interacts with them) but of course there are many fuzzy categories and pure arbitrariness. --Pablo Flores